The home of America's first pot arrest is also the home of its first licensed recreational sales, as dozens of medical and recreational fans of cannabis who wanted to be part of history lined up in the freezing Denver dawn this morning to purchase the first legal bags of pot sold in America since before 1937.
Clad in beanies, hoodies, coats, jeans and gloves, customers began signing up in line at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at 3-D Cannabis Center. The former medical marijuana dispensary is one of 18 Denver businesses officially cleared to open by Jan. 1. Doors opened at 8 a.m. with limits of one quarter-once for $70-$100 plus 21.22% tax.
The first sale at 3-D Cannabis went to Sean Azzariti, a Denver-based Iraq war veteran treating post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). Azzariti said full legalization benefits those suffering from PTSD — a condition not covered under Colorado's medical marijuana law despite repeated efforts to add it. He bought an eighth of Bubba Kush.
"The trial period was over the last few years of medical marijuana being sold," he said.
Amendment 64 dropped the “medical”, and directed the state to issue licenses for growers, processors, wholesalers and retailers of marijuana to any adult over 21, no medical condition necessary. Stage agencies rushed to comply with initiative deadlines Dec. 31, with a total of 18 retail shops licensed to open by Jan 1 in Denver (see map below). Several dozen more will open in the coming weeks in Denver and elsewhere.
(Click here to view Colorado's legal cannabis stores list)
LAB OF DEMOCRACY
The United States has prohibited marijuana since 1937, and President Nixon declared a war on pot in 1971, making it a “schedule 1” drug considered as dangerous as heroin. But the federal government cannot make states enforce federal drug laws, it can only sue to dismantle state regulations that contravene federal law.
The White House said Aug. 29 they will not sue to dismantle Colorado’s regulations. Doing so would create a legal vacuum, with pot legal but no controls. It would be the worst of all outcomes, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told Congress in September.
Drug Policy Researcher Beau Kilmer called the sales “historic”. No country, state, or city has formally taxed & regulated recreational marijuana sales in anyone's lifetime.
“It’s definitely historic. There’s a lot of confusion about The Netherlands. People think it’s legal there and it’s not. Having stores open that are selling marijuana to any adult who’s 21 and older — this whole idea of removing the prohibition and then creating these stores — that’s historic.”
UC Berkeley law and public policy professor Robert MacCoun said legalized sales is the beginning of an experiment.
“January 1st is indeed a historically significant day in drug policy. It marks a notable break with marijuana policies of the Drug War era,” he wrote us in an email. “When Colorado's packaged products turn up in, say, Utah, how will the feds respond? How far will prices drop? Will consumption soar? And if so, how much of that will be temporary -- baby-boomer nostalgia? If consumption does rise, will it be offset by reductions in recreational drinking? I'll be watching to see how Colorado's marijuana prevalence compares to the level circa 1979 -- our historical peak for marijuana use and well above current rates.”
“The experiences in Colorado (and soon, in Washington) will influence prospects for legalization in other states in 2014 and 2016, at least in 2014, anecdotes are likely to play a bigger role than any hard statistical evidence.”
Forty-six year-old Wisconsin resident Bob, drove 18 hours for marijuana, which treats his painful neuropathy. He was relieved by the short waits Wednesday. "I thought there was going to be a line around the block." Wisconsin has neither medical let alone recreational weed, but Bob said his pain is so debilitating he will traffic the banned herb home. "I have illness, it’s the only thing that actually helps me."
Samuel R. Caldwell is reportedly the first American ever arrested in the war on pot on Oct. 2, 1937. He was arrested in Denver, Colorado and served three years hard labor.
26 million people are estimated to have been arrested for pot since then.
In 2012, 5.4 million persons aged 12 or older used marijuana on a daily or almost daily basis in the past 12 months (i.e., on 300 or more days in that period), which was an increase from the 3.1 million daily or almost daily marijuana users in 2006 (Figure 2.15). - NSDUH
Roughly 75 percent of teens report marijuana is easy to get and that has been true in the US for several decades.
750,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year.